Vitas is the service the VHC recommended for mom. Things were crazy or I might have looked around more, but I sure felt in good hands meeting with the two reps they sent to talk to me. I knew some of their promises sounded too good to be true (they basically said they'd handle everything from here on out) but I thought even if half of it were true, we'd be in good shape. I had a wonderful experience with a different provider in another state with my dad, so I had positive feelings going into this.
Things went downhill almost immediately when they told me the bed would arrive at my mom's assisted living apartment before we got home from the hospital, only to find Sunrise couldn't accept it without a family member present. Vitas works with lots of Sunrises in our area but never warned us this could happen. Neither rep from Vitas picked up their phones over that weekend to help me with rescheduling the bed, even though they told me to call them day or night. We hadn't been assigned an official case manager or nurse yet to call, so mom didn't have the adjustable bed for several days after coming home, and wound up staying in her adjustable chair.
On Monday -- Tuesday, several people from Vitas came and introduced themselves and assured us, "you're going to see a lot of me" but then never came again. Too bad because I liked them, but that was that.
When two members from Vitas set up mom's bed, they didn't have enough outlets so, instead of telling me they needed an extension cord, they just unplugged the inflatable mattress that's supposed to relieve pressure on mom. I didn't figure that out for a solid week. The Vitas aide said she thought it looked weird to her but didn't do anything about it. Their nurse must not check those things.
Our aide was a sweet woman and a very hard worker and I don't want to get her in trouble because she was the only part of Vitas that really worked out for my mom (she really cared too), but she, like our nurse, was absent a lot and didn't get a substitute or tell us in advance. This meant mom was left for 4-5 days more than once without anybody from Vitas checking on her. It also meant that Sunrise had to do more for mom (usually a la carte services, which cost us more.)
I really felt Vitas saw that mom was at Sunrise and just figured Sunrise should handle the hospice, even though Medicare was paying Vitas. When I complained to Vitas, everybody pointed fingers at Sunrise and how badly they were supposedly failing mom, but I was there everyday and saw Sunrise bend over backwards for mom, with a smile on their faces to boot. Didn't see that with Vitas, with the exception of the aide, who, by the way, told us just to spring for the Sunrise's more expensive floor because Vitas wasn't going to do anything like what it promised. At least she was honest. In retrospect, I wish I had done just that, cutting Vitas out of the loop (in that case, I would have only really needed palliative care status to keep Sunrise from fulfilling their legal duty to send mom to the ER.)
Nobody from Vitas ever got mom's name right.
When I complained to our nurse that she and the aide weren't showing up and were leaving all the work to Sunrise, she was very defensive, unprofessional, and argumentative at first until I told her that wasn't acceptable and she calmed down and told me that coming out to see my mom was just too much for her tight schedule to bear. I've waited the better part of a year to write this, but that conversation is still appalling to me. If their caseload is that high, I'd rather know from the beginning. I'd rather be turned away from Vitas than hear (and witness) my mom being so low of a priority. Anybody would.
The rep who signs people up at the hospital really needs to dial back the promises of what Vitas will deliver.
Also, because of the frequent absences, I wound up having to buy supplies just as often as I had before Vitas told me I didn't have to buy supplies anymore. You just couldn't rely on them to come and drop them off. Occasionally they didn't drop everything, and we'd be short the one thing we needed. This is not something I'd normally complain about but on top of everything else, I will.
I did call someone supposedly higher up than the nurse to mention the absences, but it didn't change things. Basically, Vitas added lots of stress at a really bad time. I wound up going to visit mom at all sorts of odd hours in the morning and night just so I wouldn't have to see our nurse ever again. I just couldn't. A couple of times I had my sister be there while she came. I needed a break more from Vitas than from the disease.
Even though I asked to bump mom up to the next level of care, Vitas never did. She died at their lowest level, just 2-3 months after entering hospice. This was not unexpected because the doctor at the hospital said it would be about this long.
Speaking of when she died, Sunrise made Vitas come out to check on mom when they feared things were getting worse in the middle of the night. Their nurse (a different one) came out and called me to say "things are bad," AND THEN JUST WENT HOME. Even at the end, mom didn't get bumped into the next level of care. That nurse didn't tell me to go up there and didn't say death was imminent but I went immediately anyway. By the time I got there (about 30-40 minutes later), mom had already died. Two Sunrise workers stayed with her, one of them staying past her shift. I'm grateful to them.
The Vitas chaplain called a week or two later to invite me to their grief services. I told her we had a terrible time with Vitas and she said, "sorry to hear that" and hung right up without letting me get in a word of explanation. She didn't ask one question about it; she just wanted off the phone. Hey, I don't like conflict either, but if she really wanted to help me work through pain, that would have been the way. I thought for about a week that maybe she'd at least alert someone who would eventually call and investigate mom's care with Vitas, but no.
I'm only giving two stars because our aide was such a hard worker and nice woman. Otherwise, I'd give them the lowest possible rating.
Dear Sarah, We were very sorry to read about your difficult experience. Please know that we take comments like yours very seriously, as we work diligently to maintain and enhance our 95% satisfaction rating from the patients and families in our care. When we fall short of our mission to provide compassionate and high quality care, it matters to us a great deal. Please know we will use this experience as part of our continuous quality improvement program.